The Federal Communications Commission today moved in to regulate the Internet, which is the wonder of the modern age exactly because the FCC hasn’t been able to get its hands around its throat. Don’t just take it from me and others at The Heartland Institute. Some guy named Steve Wozniak wrote in The Atlantic that the little tech company he helped found named Apple would have never had a chance to fundamentally transform our economy and our everyday lives if the rules the FCC just imposed were in place years ago.
I believe this is the end of the Internet as we know it. If the barrage of lawsuits soon to come don’t dislodge the FCC from a place it has no jurisdiction to regulate, it will burrow itself in for good. And we’ll all be the poorer for it — never knowing what cool stuff we’ll miss because of a world where companies play an expensive game of “Mother May I?” with bureaucrats before moving forward with their next innovation.
At a time when we need much less regulation of industry across the board to encourage economic growth, the FCC has just inserted its muck-making machine smack dab in the middle of the only industry keeping America’s economy afloat.
Here are a couple of Heartland videos that help explain the net neutrality debate: (“Net Neutrality: Part 1” and “Why Obama is Wrong about Net Neutrality.”) Here is a Heartland policy study that exposes the Marxist history of the net neutrality movement. And here is my contribution to the statement Heartland released to the press today in reaction to this inevitable, but still depressing, news:
“The FCC’s ruling is good news for attorneys, who will bill countless hours to fight this illegal power-grab in court. For everyone else, especially those who have enjoyed the wonders of the digital age, this is bad news.
“The modern Internet exists because market forces drove investment and innovation. The only regret the average consumer experienced under such freedom was not upgrading faster to the latest version of the coolest new device or service. It is this ‘flawed’ market three members of the FCC were determined to ‘fix.’
“Instead of fixing the market, the FCC will succeed only in stifling it by declaring itself the sole gatekeeper to the future of the digital economy. And instead of working to meet the demands of consumers, technology companies will instead turn their attention to Washington and spend resources convincing the FCC to rig the market in their favor. Only a bureaucrat could think that’s an improvement over the status quo.”
Please also read the comments of Bruce Edward Walker, managing editor of Heartland’s InfoTech & Telecom News, and Marc Oestreich, legislative specialist for technology policy at The Heartland Institute by clicking here. This is not a good day for our digital liberty and the inherent dynamism of a truly free digital economy.
UPDATE (9:08 p.m. CST): If you have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal online, don’t miss this piece by John Fund. He outlines His lead:
The Federal Communications Commission’s new “net neutrality” rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility.
Exactly … and depressing. Fund goes through a bit of the vital background we outlined in the Heartland Institute policy paper titled “Neutralism: The Strange Philosophy Behind the Movement for Net Neutrality.” Fund writes:
The net neutrality vision for government regulation of the Internet began with the work of Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor who founded the liberal lobby Free Press in 2002. Mr. McChesney’s agenda? “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies,” he told the website SocialistProject in 2009. “But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control. …For a man with such radical views, Mr. McChesney and his Free Press group have had astonishing influence. Genachowski’s press secretary at the FCC, Jen Howard, used to handle media relations at Free Press. The FCC’s chief diversity officer, Mark Lloyd, co-authored a Free Press report calling for regulation of political talk radio.
UPDATE (9:30 p.m. CST): Scott Cleland at the Precursor Blog has several great “take-aways” on this dread news, as well.
UPDATE: (10:35 p.m. CST): Future Senate Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he will ensure “rigorous oversight” to “explore all our legislative options to put things back on the proper track.” The hearings should be brief. Just tell the FCC that it can’t do what it wants to do. The bill can even be one page.